I recently found this article while cleaning out an old computer. I believe I wrote this in 1998 but for the life of me, I can not remember which magazine requested this article. It was fun walking down memory lane!
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AM/CAN CH RARE EARTH’S SUNLIGHT SAILOR, FCH CD SC CGC VC ROM
Whelped: June 28, 1991
Sire: CH Ivy League’s Bungalow Bill, FCH ROM
Dam: CH Windriver’s Crimson Arrow, LCM CD SC CGC VC ROM
Breeder: Meg Willis-Redfern
Owners: Brenda Bohan Surin, Donald Bohan, Danielle Sand DVM
How did you get Zulu?
I bought Zulu as a birthday present for my brother Donald. When we went to be interviewed by Meg Willis-Redfern, she explained that she would like to have the puppy obtain an AKC conformation title. We had no desire to get involved with anything “like that” and told Meg to put us on her list for a pet quality pup from her next litter. We stayed a few more hours playing with the dogs and by the end of the visit, Meg decided she really wanted us to have one of the pups. She asked if we would allow her to put a championship on the dog and we agreed. We told her we might dabble around with a little obedience too. Well, as they say “the rest is history” and to this day, we have great laughs with Meg over her ability to see the word “suckers” on our fore heads!!
List Zulu’s accomplishments:
The first two things that come to mind — Zulu is the sire of the 1999 ASFA International Invitational Best In Field winner, BII FC Redwing’s Private Idaho, FCH SC (bred by Sue Kaehler). He also sired the 1996 RRCUS Best In Specialty winner, CH Rubandi’s Ruby Red Sailor (bred by Diane Johnson). We are very proud of our Zulu “kids” and all they have accomplished in conformation and performance areas. Zulu himself won Best of Breed at Westminster in 1996, and on making the cut in group, his “famous free stack” gave us all a great thrill. He was given RRCUS Specialty Award of Merits under breeder judges Sandra Fikes (1996) and Alicia Mohr (1997). Zulu also won “Best Male” at the 1997 Orange Coast Regional Specialty under Author/Judge Patricia Craige Trotter. At the 1998 RRCUS Specialty, Breeder/Judge Richard Ruppert awarded him First Place in 7 – 9 Veteran Sweeps. And to date, Zulu is the only Ridgeback to score a perfect 100 in the Triathlon conformation judging at the Florida specialty by breeder Barbara Throckmorton. He has only been shown in stud dog competition twice, and won First Place both times with get from four different bitches. Zulu earned his obedience and coursing titles after retiring from the conformation ring, making him eligible for his Versatility Certificate at seven years of age. Zulu’s second greatest accomplishment is that he is well known at area schools, libraries, and nursing homes for his gentle manner and entertaining antics. His first and most noteworthy achievement is that he is the canine love of my life – my rock with a heart.
Do you have any mentors?
Meg Willis-Redfern has been our greatest supporter, teacher and now partner in all we have accomplished with our Ridgebacks. The last few years, Sarah Lilly has been instrumental in training us and our dogs for obedience and agility. Sarah owns The Canine Companion School here in Battle Creek, MI and she has worked miracles with all of us – two legged and four legged alike.
What did you start first: Show, Obedience or lure coursing?
We started conformation first with Zulu but if I had it to do over again, I would start with lure coursing, obedience, or agility. We (Meandu and Rare Earth) believe that “Performance is the test of sound structure and character.” So our policy is to test that theory on our “breeding stock” in as many areas of performance as time and money allows. We believe the Ridgeback to be THE most versatile breed. A well bred Ridgeback should have the capability of going from the Group ring at Westminster straight to the coursing or tracking field, obedience or agility ring, and should always be a great companion in the home and good citizen within their community.
What type of training methods do you use?
We use positive motivation through praise and treats. The first training club we went too almost ruined us and our first two Ridgebacks, including Zulu, from ever trying to compete in obedience. They used negative/punitive training methods and the dogs soon began to cringe when they saw the metal choke collar. It was awful and I still feel guilty for what I put my boys through. Thank goodness, Meg caught on to what was happening and headed us in the right direction. Zulu and Murphy are not enthusiastic obedience dogs to this day because of that early negative training. For the other kids in the house, we use meal time to practice sit, wait, watch me, and “OK!!” We practice heeling off lead with treats, use the old “jack pot” often, and end the training session before the dog tires and always after a “success.” Each dog is unique and will respond to different types of training styles and methods — we keep training sessions upbeat and make it FUN FUN FUN.
What do you think of prong collar training?
We do not use metal collars at all but that is my choice after our experience with the first training club. We use Premier nylon collars or buckle collars. I think a prong collar on some dogs can be a useful tool. One well timed correction on a prong collar is far better than 20 on a metal choke collar. A novice owner/handler should never use a metal collar because of the possibility of damage to the dogs throat by incorrect or forceful corrections. Again, you must know your Ridgeback well enough to know what method of training will give you the results you desire.
What do you think about clicker training?
We have not used clicker training – yet. We have been trained that our voices are our clickers and we have been quite successful in getting the results we want. I have sent several of our puppy people to training club’s that use clicker training and they are having great success.
How often do you train?
All the people in our family have gone through at least two training classes for obedience and agility. We have found it is US who needs the training and confidence, the Ridgebacks catch on a lot quicker than we do!! We train 24 hours a day. In other words, we watch for opportunities within our daily routine to reinforce behaviors we will use in obedience and agility. We go to class as time allows for run throughs. Often we go without the dogs so that Sarah can run us through the routines, practice our foot work, and hone our body movements. When we do take the dogs to class, we keep their work time to 10-15 minutes sessions, let them take a break and then go another 10-15 minutes. Again, we keep the practices short and upbeat.
How often do you compete?
I have entered Zulu at every National Specialty we have attended and successfully ruined his routine each time. So I finally turned him over to Sarah Lilly to handle and she qualified him at three consecutive trials including the 1998 Specialty. He actually ranked Number 14 – not bad for an old boy whose mommy “abused” him in his younger days. We have yet to compete for rankings in obedience but I hope that one day we will have a Ridgeback that will be up for the challenge of competitive obedience work.
What are your obedience goals?
I achieved my obedience goal for Zulu – his CD. We are training some youngsters now and hope to have them ready for the specialty this year. Our goal is to put Versatility titles on all of the dogs that live in our house — with the exception of The Jazz, who is the official Princess at Meandu, a job she takes most seriously including daily reminders of her divine presence.
What advice would you give someone wanting to do obedience?
Please find a trainer or mentor who knows and understands hounds. Personal hands on knowledge of Ridgebacks is better still. By all means try different methods and adjust your training routine to the individual dog but always be consistent and patient. Obedience can be a humbling experience so above all else keep a sense of humor and make it fun for you and your dog. I have seen Ridgebacks who breeze through their obedience routines and garner scores in the 190’s. Then I have seen those same Ridgebacks at dog shows or in their homes and they are maniacs, and I would not want to live with them. I believe that obedience training should be geared to assist the dog to be a better companion around the house and community, if you get a high in trial, that is a bonus.
When and why did you start lure coursing?
We started lure coursing for the same reason we started everything else involving Ridgebacks – because Meg Willis-Redfern is a nag!! Seriously, Meg’s puppy contract (and now ours) states that for every title we put AFTER the dog’s name the puppy owner will be refunded a portion of the sale price of the dog. If you knew Meg and her frugal ways, you would know that this is quite a testimony regarding her conviction that Ridgebacks CAN and SHOULD be able to do it ALL. Lure coursing is great fun – for the dogs and for the humans. We live in Region 6 (Midwest) and of the eleven ASFA coursing breeds — six of the Number 1 nationally ranked hounds for 1998 were from Region 6. Of the ASFA Top 10 Ridgebacks, seven are from Region 6, including the Number 1 Ridgeback. So we have a great group of people here with incredible coursing animals. We have grown to be great supporters of each other, no matter what breed we run. One of our first trials was July 4, 1994 here in Michigan. The tension amongst the “old timers” from the other breeds over the presence of the Ridgebacks was evident. The Michigan sight hound contingency had been one of the most vocal in trying to keep Ridgebacks from becoming accepted. Meg pulled together a nice Ridgeback entry, gave us all a good talking too about getting more with honey than vinegar, and off we went to the trial. Our Murphy won Best in Field the first trial, and Meg’s Soupy won Best In Field the next two days. It was a clean sweep for the Ridgebacks and I will never forget the feeling of acceptance and respect we received on the last day as fellow competitors from the other breeds offered handshakes of congratulations and welcome. Meg has worked hard to improve the image of Ridgebacks within Region 6. She is soft spoken and unassuming in her efforts, but I am neither, and I am proud to be associated with her and more than willing to praise her good deeds and hard work – so I will use this space to say a special “Tally Ho” to Meg Willis-Redfern from all of us at Meandu!!
What type of training do you do?
For puppies and very young dogs, we do exercises to tweak their prey drive. We play “puppy rugby” by placing a cup of dog food into a gallon milk container and letting the puppy or puppies “chase” it around the back yard. Of course, they reward themselves now and again by throwing out pieces of food. We start this game with our puppies as soon as their eyes open and they begin to walk. We also use a lunge lead, the kind used to train horses, to test the prey drive in young dogs and encourage it in the older ones. We place a smelly treat into a small piece of white plastic and then tie that to the end of the lunge lead. We then play keep away from the dogs. Not only does this exercise sharpen their prey drive, it also helps us to weed out the pups who show no interest in the lure. For our older, more seasoned coursers, we will run a few practices a year to sharpen their follow skills. Ridgebacks are notorious for “hunting” the lure, or better stated – they cheat. We try to break this habit by setting up a practice that forces them to stay on task. We do this by running the lure through tree lines or tall grass. We also use long straight ways or tight circles to try to keep them focused. As far as physical training and conditioning, we feed Pro-Plan Adult Maintenance as our base and doctor it up with lots of fresh goodies. Due to some health problems in the humans last year, our road work fell off considerably. We were lucky to get the dogs out once a week for a run. Fortunately, we have a nice size yard and they kept themselves in reasonable shape by playing chase games for most of the year. When the two legged in this house are up to par, we road work the dogs at least 3 times a week, 4 – 8 miles per run. Depending on weather and road conditions. We warm up and cool down, and during the run itself, we keep the dogs at an even trot – left / right, left / right. We do one short sprint during the run and push them to go as fast as safely possible. We have clocked Lexie at 34 MPH. Remember the better condition the dogs, the less prone they will be to injury.
Do you compete in both ASFA and AKC trails?
I will compete in both ASFA and AKC because I look for every opportunity to test the performance abilities of my Ridgebacks. However, I prefer ASFA because they are better organized, their record keeping can rarely be faulted, and they have 25 plus years of experience to offer new comers. My experience with AKC record keeping and heavy handed running of trials has lessened my desire to compete at their events. There have been so many AKC Championships awarded to dogs who have never completed the requirements that I find it difficult to put a great deal of stock in their coursing program. Their recent cuts in staff and funding for the performance department will surely worsen the problems they have experienced since their lure coursing program began. I hope time proves me incorrect and the program improves.
What do you find most enjoyable about lure cursing?
There is nothing more thrilling than watching these great athletes run a good clean course. One of the things that we are known for is run offs for placements. We love to watch the dogs run and our motto (crude as it may seem) is “we run them till they puke.” Of course, that has never happened — so what is the point we are trying to make by using this saying? Our Ridgebacks EARN their placements and their titles, thus consistently testing and proving our theory of “performance is the test of sound structure and character” — this gives us great joy and pride in the Ridgebacks we have bought and/or bred. Besides watching the dogs run, some of my fondest memories come from the gatherings after the day’s trial is done. We camp, and eat, have a beer or two, and share tall tails under the stars. It is a great sport for many reasons but the friendships we have found amongst coursing folk are some of our strongest and most cherished.
What are your lure coursing goals?
We have reached our coursing goals for Zulu, he has done all we asked him to do and he is moving on to agility now. Our coursing goal as breeders was to breed and own an ASFA top coursing Ridgeback — we did that from our first litter — our Maggie Mae. MBIF FC Meandu Marabou Matuka, LCM2 CGC SC was the 1998 ASFA Number 1 Ridgeback. We hope to repeat this success again in the future.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to lure course?
Go to practices or fun matches when the pup is young and practice short down and backs to help build enthusiasm and encourage their prey drive. Some Ridgebacks were “born to course” — others you have to bring along, or train — just like you do for conformation, obedience, agility, etc. Find a mentor to help you when a problem arises – one of our greatest resources has been Nancy Krupa who owns Bobbie and Beamer – two of the GREATEST coursing Ridgebacks I have EVER had the privilege to watch run. She told us our Ridgebacks were fat and out of condition the first time she saw them, and she was correct. They were injuries waiting to happen in the condition they were in when we first started. The list of things Nancy shared with us is too long for this article but she and other “old timers” out there are always willing to share their knowledge if you just ask. We have also sought the advice from folks from other breeds. Save yourself and your dog a lot of heart ache by learning from “the experts” and their mistakes. Never road work a Ridgeback under one year of age or a Ridgeback that is not sound and sure on it’s feet. Prelim hips and elbows BEFORE you start competing, and once you make the commitment to course, keep your dogs and yourself in good condition. I am not a great fan of running Best In Field. I was told a long time ago that all great coursing dogs only have so many safe runs in them – why waste those runs on Best In Field, a “glory run” in ASFA. The most serious injuries I have seen on the field have been during Best In Field runs. We have obviously run our kids in Best In Field, in fact our Lexie was the first Ridgeback to win a Regional Invitational Best In Field. I am just suggesting that you run them judiciously and always with your dog’s safety foremost in your decision. Other than that one caution — have fun and be good sports — you represent Ridgebacks, so put your best paws forward!!
How did you get involved in showing?
As I stated earlier, we promised Meg we would let her put a championship on Zulu. He finished at Cobo Hall in March of 1993 and I jumped up and down for joy – this “show crap” was over!! Then the May, Apple Blossom Cluster in Kalamazoo came along. The show site is 10 minutes from my house and some of my friends talked me into showing Zulu. Jane Kay was the judge and there were 7 or 8 specials in the ring that day, including three that were being campaigned. One by you know who – that good looking “kid” from Ohio whose name starts with Mike and ends with Szabo. Anyway, on the last go around, Jane Kay points at me and says “you are my Best of Breed!!” I stopped dead in my tracks and said LOUDLY — “WHO ME?!?!” Everyone broke into laughter and applause and I broke into tears. Jane Kay also pulled Zulu out in the group and told me if I had not acted like such a dork in the breed ring, she would have given me a placement. So that is how I got “hooked” on the conformation ring – once again, Meg had me pegged – one big ribbon and medallion and I was off. I must tell you that without the love, support, and encouragement of Danielle Sand these last seven years, the conformation trail would have proved to be far less enjoyable and much more a chore than a journey. Her wonderful sense of humor put many “wrongs” into perspective. Her impeccable sense of style and class were my guiding light when composing ads, promoting Zulu’s show career, and knowing when it was time to retire. Her never ending love for “her” ZuMan and for our family has been a reliable and immutable source of strength, comfort and encouragement. Our relationship moved quickly from that of teacher / students, to “family.” She is one awesome lady our Dr. Danielle Sand.
Is Zulu a good show dog?
You can take this statement to the bank – Zulu is a GREAT show dog!! He has had a dozen different handlers over the years and has done well with them all. He sits pretty for the judge when getting his ribbon, he shakes hands, “talks” to his handler, and slaps spectators at ring side if they happen to have bait in their hands — AND his free stack is flawless. He is just a “way too cool dog” — she says not so humbly.
Did you ever hire a handler? Why or why not?
Oh yes, we use handlers. My back is holding together by prayer and good luck and it became too painful for me to pound around the ring. I admire those who handle their own dogs and encourage people to do so at every opportunity. I was actually Number 1 Owner Handler the first year the program began. We are lucky that we have several kids in the family who like to show, so we let them handle the dogs as often as they choose. I traveled with Zulu for the 18 months we campaigned him with a few exceptions when family matters kept me close to home. I did this because of the horror stories I was told about how handlers treat their charges. What I found out was that the vast majority of professional handlers are just that – professionals. I have the utmost respect for those I have used and recommend them highly when asked for a referral. If I had started in “The Fancy” many years ago, I would have handled my own dogs all the way but old age and common sense tell me I have nothing to prove by running around the ring with a piece of bait hanging from my mouth. I will leave that joyful experience to the youngsters and the professionals.
What advice would you give anyone wanting to show his or her own dog?
I say go for it!! Here is what I told the Bohan and Surin kids back in 1993 when they asked to handle our Ridgebacks. First, hold true to our family ethics of good sportsmanship, honesty, and integrity in and out of the ring. Secondly, protect the heath and well being of the dog in your charge at all costs — leave the ring if you must, but never put our animals in harms way. Thirdly, have fun – this is a sport, a game – play to win but have fun along the way, and make it a pleasant experience for the dogs. Lastly and most importantly – remember: win – loose – or place, at the end of the day – you ALWAYS take the best dog home.
What are your goals in the conformation ring?
I was told early on by many people that Zulu was a fine representative of the breed. As the true “show me” kind of person that I am, I needed to test that theory for myself. So my goal was one of statistics, not ranking, though I asked the handlers to try and get him in the Top 10. I wanted to see what he could do under as many different judges as possible. I felt this would be a true test of his quality. So Zulu’s life time record comes from being entered in 152 All Breed shows (1993 to 1996). He has won 124 Best of Breed under 91 different judges. He has 6 Best of Opposite wins and he has 57 Group placements under 48 different judges, including 14 Group I under 14 different judges. He earned his Canadian Championship in three consecutive shows with a Group I, Group 2, and a Best of Opposite win. In 1994, Zulu was ranked Number 3 RR All Breed and Number 6 RR. In 1995, he was Number 4 in both systems. I was told that had I been willing to send him out full time he would have accomplished much more. But trout fishing and long walks are only fun when the ZuMan is included, so he spent many weekends at home during 1994 and 1995 doing what he does best – being “a way too cool dog.” I have no regrets when it comes to my ZuMan. He opened many doors for Meandu and Rare Earth and we are all very proud of him. He is the son of a great show dog – Danielle Sand’s “Billy” – and I am reminded of her great love and pride for Zulu at least once a week when she calls to check on “her boy.” My future goal is to have a top winning All Breed bitch. I am not foolish or vain enough to think I will be able to breed her myself, though that would be wonderful, and perhaps my luck will hold and she will pop her pretty head out of my litter box someday. But whether from Meandu, Rare Earth, or Ivy League stock, I would like to try and campaign a Ridgeback bitch. Fortunately, I have the good sense and eye to buy a “Ridgeback of excellence” if and when we are ready to hit the campaign trial again.
Which activity do you enjoy the most?
I enjoy doing it all with my Ridgebacks. I love going to the big circuits and the National Specialties. What better way to learn about our breed then to attend as many conformation shows and specialties as possible. I enjoy watching obedience and utility work for the same reasons – to educate myself on the form and function of our breed by watching them perform outside of the controlled environment of the conformation ring. I look forward to participating in agility and perhaps someday tracking – again for the purpose of education as well as “testing” my Ridgebacks to see if they truly can “do it all.” Never forget about therapy work or community service with Ridgebacks. Nothing touches me more than taking my Ridgebacks into schools, libraries or nursing homes and watching the expressions of tenderness on the faces of those who are getting a Ridgeback kiss or shake of the paw. But for the pure experience of just having a GREAT time — nothing beats lure coursing!!
What is next for Zulu?
Zulu thinks he would like to try his paws at agility but should that turn out to be too much for me or for him, he really has nothing left to prove. Zulu exemplifies our motto — “Performance: the test of sound structure and character.”
Consider adopting a rescue Ridgeback!! Our national program is excellent and our people do a great job in matching new owners with our rescued kids. Many a great performance Ridgeback started off on shaky ground only to be saved and loved through many fun times and accomplishments by their new owner. If your heart is set on buying a Ridgeback, do your homework and buy from a reputable breeder who offers heath and temperament guarantees. Study the history and purpose of our breed as this will give you insight on how to train and live with your new family member. Be the best owner/friend you can possibly be with your first Ridgeback because owning a Ridgeback is not only a privilege — it is an addiction. If you have one, you WILL get another!! Relax, have fun, and always remember “you always take the best dog home!!”
Copyright © 1998 Brenda L. Surin. All Rights Reserved.